Monday, 30 June 2014

My travel report - summary

Would I recommend going on a luxury train journey for a special celebration, assuming that your budget allows it? After our recent experiences, I would give a resounding yes. From the moment we arrived at the National Parador San Marcos in León in northern Spain at the start of our holiday until the moment coach driver Antonio drove us back to Santander Station on our last day, we were thoroughly spoilt. It was definitely five star service from beginning to end.

Meet the crew - as we were welcomed on board
To be honest, we weren't quite sure what to expect.  We had downloaded an outline of our journey, but we didn't know the details until we arrived. Ana, our lovely tour guide, gave us a handout with details of each day's programme and answered all our questions. She spoke good English as well as Spanish and French and was at our disposal from breakfast at 8.30 until after dinner at 21.00. Her enthusiasm was endless and she definitely helped to make the holiday a great experience for everyone.

We had expected that many of our fellow passengers would be American or British, but to our surprise the majority were Spanish, with two Argentinians, a Belgian (with a Spanish wife), an Australian doctor and the two of us.  It was an interesting mix.

We had been asked to complete a form prior to our holiday with any special requirements, so I took advantage of this to mention that I don't eat any meat (though I eat fish and shellfish) and that I don't like tomatoes. I was impressed by the fact that any time that the menu was unsuitable for me, including meals taken in restaurants on our journey, Ana came to discuss the options with me. I suspect that some of the other passengers were a bit envious of this attention!

One of the luxurious carriages
We had a full programme, with city tours of León, Bilbao and Santander, plus excursions on the coach to towns in between where we visited several museums and churches. Our train travelled through some stunning scenery so even when we were on the move we weren't bored.

The food was superb and - apart from breakfast, obviously! - it was accompanied by fine wines, coffee and liqueurs. Did I mention that I'm about to start a diet?

I can't fault the organisation. Once we handed over our cases in León to be taken to our suite on the train while we saw the city sights, everything was done for us. All we had to do was enjoy ourselves. If there were any problems, we weren't aware of them. The staff were professional but also very friendly and helpful towards us.

Most of the other passengers were continuing on the train to Santiago, so we were expecting to say our farewells after breakfast on our last day. However on our final evening Ana told us that we could join the others on their morning visit to the Museum of Altamira and the picturesque town of Santillana del Mar. Antonio would then drive us back to Santander in time to catch the train to Madrid. What a bonus!

We discovered these in our suite on our last night
Apart from our memories, we have some tangible mementoes of our fabulous holiday. This long lasting red rose, guide book, hand written note, leaflets and photo were on our bed when we returned from the Casino on our last evening - as well as a bottle of cava chilling in an ice bucket. A lovely thoughtful gesture that put the finishing touch on our wonderful holiday.

Did anyone spot the chocolates? They've all been eaten now. Did I mention that I'm about to start a diet?


  1. Great report! Makes we want to book a trip right now.

  2. Thanks, Robin. I definitely think that if you've never gone on a trip like this, it's worth considering for a special occasion as it was an amazing experience. Of course if people are used to staying in 5 star hotels, eating in the top restaurants and are chauffeured everywhere, maybe they wouldn't appreciate it so much!

  3. You write well and you are funny (did I mention I am about to start a diet?) haha.
    It sounds tempting, but with my husband, being difficult with groups, I think I better not. Sigh.. Lovely man he is, but he comes with a manual. (Don't worry, I love him to death.)

  4. Have been reading your blog for a while, with interest. I'm also short and H shape, but with curves! Hope you can pass on any tips, as we are plarning a road trip through Spain to Portugal in November (Ferry to Santander ,via Salamanca, Merida etc.) we could do with some tips for capsule travel packing - bearing in mind what type of weather and temperatures we can expect for that time of year. We will be staying in Paradors, then self catering where it's a more casual dress code for restaurants.
    What's essential, and what would you not bother with? eg. light colour trousers/ linen, shoes, more plain colours and some pattern ? Thanks for any advise.